Classic Cowes conditions for opening day of SB20 Grand Slam

Image courtesy of  TCA Productions.

Image courtesy of TCA Productions.

There was a little bit of everything on the first day of the SB20 Grand Slam at Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week, on Saturday August 2, 2014.

Racing for the 36 entries began in heavy downpours with black clouds bringing shifty, gusty conditions, which later moderated into more consistent south-westerly breezes.

Two races were held as part of the class’s four-day Grand Slam format, which has proved hugely popular with SB20 sailors and seen entry numbers boosted again since the ‘event within an event’ was launched last year. This year the Grand Slam has attracted visitors from Belgium and Holland, two boats from Oman Sail, as well as teams from across Britain, including a boat from Scotland.

The first race honours went to Marshall King in ‘Sponge Bob’ from Rob Gullan in ‘F5 Synthesis’, with Jerry Hill and the ‘’ team in third. These front-runners, together with ‘Chill Pill’ enjoyed plenty of place-changing throughout the race, until ‘Sponge Bob’ was able to pull away.

Jerry Hill and Rob Gullan reversed the finishing order in the second race, with ‘’ taking the win from ‘F5 Synthesis’, while Charlie and Alec Russell took third in EDigitalResearch’. ‘Sponge Bob’ had to retire after a collision. This leaves ‘’ and ‘F5 Synthesis’ tied at the top of the leaderboard at the end of the first day.

Jerry Hill of ‘’ commented, “We had two great races today. We saw anything from 18 knots to 8 knots, sunshine through to torrential rain, and a good shift to the right as the day went on – all classic Cowes Week stuff!”

He added, “In the second race it was very close at the first mark with a lot of boats, we managed to break clear of that pack and Rob Gullan was a long way ahead but we steadily pulled back into them. Then right at the end a supertanker came through the pack – neither of us had seen it and we were both in danger of going from first and second to completely out of the top results, but ultimately we overtook him to win. It was a great Cowes Week lesson about needing to keep your eyes out of the boat!”

Rob Gullan was helming ‘F5 Synthesis’, and admitted that the team went into today underprepared. “Today was pretty entertaining, we got out and realised we didn’t have a buoy map or anything – we were pretty chaotic. In the second race we must have been 500m in first, and didn’t have any idea where we were going. But actually it made us sail really conservatively, and we were quite fast, so it worked out well – it was just all a bit stressful!

“Two seconds is good, we’re very happy.”

Rob and owner Peter Hine are returning to the fleet for the first time in two years, with their eyes on next year’s worlds in Torbole.

The fleet also includes two teams from Oman Sail. Ibtisam Al Salmi was racing for her first time on an SB20. She said her introduction to the fleet was: “Very hard work – they are all very good sailors, and it’s very high-level racing. I enjoyed it a lot though, especially downwind surfing the waves, although it’s like taking a shower every second!”

The Grand Slam, sponsored by Harken, Dubarry, Bolle, Selden and TCA Productions, continues tomorrow with two races per day until Tuesday August 5, 2014.

SB20 Cowes Grand Slam Results:



Full results at

Image courtesy of  TCA Productions.

Image courtesy of TCA Productions.